The boxen

A woman from the Marriott hotel in Taipei emailed the office and asked if we would be willing to bring copies of the Book of Mormon to place in the hotel rooms. She asked if we could get 500 copies together in time to bring them over next week.

"Next week?" Elder Smith replied. "We can bring them over tonight."

It just so happened that we needed to drive some mattresses over to 永和 [Yonghe] in the van as well, so we decided to do both in the same trip. We drove down to the our improvised warehouse in the parking garage, and crammed the beast with four bulky mattresses and eighteen boxes of scriptural cargo.

After cruising on the highway to 南港 [Nangang], we circled around for a few minutes before we found the entrance to the huge hotel’s parking garage. We drove inside, talked our way past the security guard ("We’re here to deliver supplies"), and found our way into the spacious hotel lobby. After talking to a bellboy and the front desk, we located the staff member who had requested the scriptures. She was grateful for the donation, and even offered us reduced-price dining with the hotel staff!

Last night, President Jergensen called me up and told me that we would need lunch for 40 people, including two members of the Seventy and the Taizhong mission president, at 11:00 today! I was a bit nervous, because all the restaurants had already closed and most wouldn’t open until 11:00 at the earliest. Most of the local restaurant personnel have already requested that I give them two working days of advance preparation time for large orders. Nevertheless, I assured him it could be done.

I woke up early and made a last-ditch call to 八方 [Bafang, a cheap Taiwanese dumpling restaurant]. Miracle of miracles, an old woman answered the phone after a minute of ringing. She wasn’t particularly lucid, but I was able to convey my order for 45 boxes of pot-stickers. She called the boss in, and they started work early to prepare the order. Sister Jergensen prepared salad and fruit, and it all worked out OK. So, that was a relief.

This week was otherwise quite uneventful. Elder Smith and I double-checked all the Old Testament samples and submitted the printing request, so hopefully we’ll have 500 copies of our language-study edition before long.

That’s about all for this week!

Elder Elliott


Circle Mountain Big Rice Store

There’s a new senior couple, the Vatchers, coming into the mission tonight. I had originally planned to have them stay in the apartment left behind by the Hsiaos, a couple who were planning to leave this month, but the Hsiaos decided to prolong their stay in the mission by two months. With no time to spare, I had to find a new apartment within a week!

After an intense online chase, I hunted down a suitable target and arranged a time to go look at the apartment an hour later. Elder Smith and I both headed over, and found the apartment excellent. Hours later, I went over a second time with President and Sister Jergensen. They loved the apartment, too, so I made the rent arrangements on the same day! The apartment search concluded faster than any other I’ve made. All the furniture was brand-new, and I even haggled new cupboards, a dining table, and a set of four chairs into the deal.

When we went over to sign the contract, the apartment looked great, except for an odd plywood scaffolding of sorts that was partially obstructing the entry hallway. It hadn’t been there the day before, but it was now screwed into the wall. Little piles of sawdust lay beneath the holes where it had been mounted to the newly-painted drywall.

"What’s this?" I asked the agent, pointing to the hastily glued-together lattice of splintery plywood.

"It’s a decoration," he said. "The landlord came in and installed it the other day."

"Uh, is he going to do anything else with it?" I asked.

"No, he just made it himself as a special decoration."

Elder Smith and I doubled over trying not to burst out laughing. The flimsy structure looked like a third-grade art project, held together with staples and drippy brown glue. We’re probably just going to take it down and hide it behind the couch for two years until the Vatchers leave.

Many other things happened this week. We finished the Old Testament, and submitted the files for printing. I changed the cover from yellow lettering on a violet background (the unpleasant color scheme the mission has used in the past) to pure white lettering on a dignified navy ground, a palette I hope to adopt for the other three-column pinyin standard works we print.

Elder Smith and I rode out to 淡水 [Danshui, or Tamsui if you like Wade-Giles pinyin] for P-day. We sat with our feet in a pool filled with fish that eat the dead skin off your feet. They use their raspy mouths to scrape your feet, producing an unusual tickling sensation. People claim this procedure removes large amounts of epidermal detritus and contributes to improved podiatric health. I carefully observed my feet before and after, and there was no visible difference, leading me to believe that these claims are bunk.

Standing in front of the brackish water at 淡水, which literally means fresh or non-saline water (it’s where a river empties into the ocean).

We ate a local delicacy known as an 阿給 [agei]. It’s a tofu bag stuffed with clear noodles and submerged in what seems to be tomato sauce. The texture is similar to guts in the belly of a leathery critter, but the taste is good.

An agei.

Afterwards, we rode the ferry out over the water (with President’s permission).

I bought a towering ice cream cone, then struggled to eat it faster than it melted.

The ice cream had a very stiff consistency to maintain its structural integrity.

There were some cool street performers. This gold-painted man moves in a convincing clockwork fashion when passerby insert coins into a box.

Yesterday, we helped set up for the 60th-anniversary devotional for missionary work in Taiwan. The first missionaries set foot on this island in 1956. This morning, sixty years later, we sang in a choir with local members to commemorate their efforts, and one of the original four missionaries (Elder Kitchen) spoke about his experiences–in Chinese! President Jergensen, several local stake presidents, and an area seventy also provided remarks.

Elder Smith and I inside the meeting hall, after hauling in the piano with a van and a dolly.

The venue was the Grand Hotel, an imposing structure Elder Smith and I refer to as the "Circle Mountain Big Rice Store" (its Chinese name translated over-literally into English).

Elder Smith and I pose in the front room of the Grand Hotel with the APs.

That’s about it for this week. It’s been a great week!

Elder Elliott


Brother to dragons

Elder Smith and I decided to go to 九份 [Jiufen] for P-day. We were planning on taking a bus and walking (about 2 hours), but we met a very persuasive taxi driver at the bus station. Forty minutes later, we both arrived in Jiufen $200 NTD poorer.

It happened to be a holiday of some kind. There was a parade of costumed giants, accompanied by the blaring of 嗩呐 [Suona, which sound like a bagpipe-vuvuzela hybrid] and an overabundance of firecrackers. A drunk guy ran among the exploding pyrotechnics, swaying and weaving as he clutched a flask of alcohol.

Tall guy and firecracker guy.

Looks pretty safe.

The tall-costume guys walking down the street.

We walked around the narrow alleys in Jiufen and had some stones engraved with our names. Elder Smith spent an hour trying to come up with a suitable Chinese name for his brother when he realized that the original name he’d chosen sounded like the Chinese for “blind” (and thus carried negative associations, making it an invalid candidate).

Alley in Jiufen.

Elder Smith ate one of the black squid ones and said it was pretty good.

When it was time to go back, I realized a small snafu: the taxi drivers on the way back charged by car, not by person, and it was $1,200 NTD per car. I found a group of foreign men and asked them in English if they wanted to go back to Taipei. They did, so we rented the same cab and split the cost equally, $200 NTD per person. The men turned out to be electrical engineers from Mexico.

Since Sunday was Mother’s Day, we were able to Skype with our families on Monday. It was really awesome. My brother’s almost as tall as me now, and his voice is crazy low. We had a great time talking with our family members. For lunch, 陳媽媽 [Sister Chen, who missionaries affectionately refer to as “Mother Chen”] took all the missionaries from the area to hot-pot buffet.

We went on exchanges with our zone leaders, which hasn’t happened in a long time (in the past, it was rare for office elders to go on exchanges with their ZLs). Elder Zhou and I went finding in a downpour, and we met a Chinese-speaking minister from Turkey. His Chinese was pretty decent; he could read some of our tract, but rejected it anyway (“I already believe in Jesus,” he told us). I told him he could at least practice his Chinese by reading the tract.

In a restaurant with the district, prior to our exchanges.

I was editing the three-column Old Testament and encountered the following verse:

I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls. (Job 31:29)

Needless to say, I was disappointed to find that “dragons” was just a bad translation of “wild dogs.” I searched the whole Old Testament, and not a single instance of the English word “dragon” was actually translated as 龍 [dragon]. They were all just bad translations of either “big fish,” “big snake,” or “wild dog.” (“Fiery flying serpent,” on the other hand, is translated as 龍, so there may still be hope).

It was a great week. That’s about it for now!

Elder Elliott


Rooftop picnic

Elder Smith and I went up to the mission-office roof and had a picnic of 刈包 [guabao, sometimes referred to as "Taiwanese hamburgers"].

We couldn’t really figure out how to use these.

Preparation day was pretty fun. We picked up our stretchy waterproof pants, ate at our favorite all-you-can-eat barbecue restaurant, then met up with some members (睿聰 [Rui Cong] and Taco) and walked around some shopping streets in our area. One of the major tech shopping centers in Taipei is here, so we had a good time looking at some ultra-high-spec components for building computers. There was a tent selling high-end motorcycles as well, so I asked the dealer if we could try them out:

Trying out the motorcycle

Don’t worry, Mom; we didn’t actually drive the motorcycles.

There was an upside-down house as well.

Elder Smith and I by the upside-down house.

We explored this brand-new mall, and had fun looking at all the expensive stuff we couldn’t afford. We did find some awesome Star Wars posters that were on sale, however.

Elder Wong, from the Seventy (a group of Church leaders), came to our mission this week. His Cantonese talk in the October 2014 General Conference was the first talk delivered in a non-English language. While he was here, he and President held three conferences to cover all the mission: one in Taipei, one in Taoyuan, and one in Taidong. Elder Smith and I went with them to the Taipei and Taoyuan conferences to help translate and take care of the food for the meetings.

A member took this picture of us and the sisters at the chapel.

Elder Wong also came to the Central Stake conference on Sunday. I was translating into English for the Jergensens during the meeting when Sister Jergensen asked me if I could stand up and translate into Chinese when she delivered her speech. Adrenaline rushed to my head like magma into a domal batholith. The whole stake center was full, with the dividers open, all with native Chinese speakers ready to tear apart any misplaced grammar construction. My hands were shaking as I stood up at the mic placed next to the pulpit.

Surprisingly, the translation went way smoother than I expected, with only one or two hitches (Sister Jergensen said something in Chinese, which threw me off, and I confusedly stuttered for a few seconds).

We met with Sister Huang, which went really well. She set a baptismal date and said she’ll accept baptism on the 28th of this month. The important thing now is making sure she doesn’t miss any church meetings.

That’s about all for this week.

Elder Elliott